Thursday, May 9, 2013

We own the dark // An interview with artist Aunia Kahn

What was growing up for you like?

As a kid I was very creative, always making things. I created to escape my home life, which was often in turmoil. Creativity was an escape from reality and always made me feel better. I used to sing myself to sleep with made-up songs; I also made up games and was always drawing. Creativity is an amazing tool to help people though hard times and generates resilience to the things we can’t change.

Were you always interested in art an early age or was it something that grew into? 

I have always been making things, creating things and coming up with ideas. I stopped being creative in my late teens due to feeling I had to choose that or a normal job and lifestyle. I was not aware creativity could be an essential part of living no matter what you are doing. When I came to that understanding I had started having trouble with my health which brought back my need to create, and was the stepping stone to where I am now.

Did you undertake any official art training?

Not a bit. I am self-taught.

Where do you draw most of your inspiration? 

Personal experiences. Much of my past work dealt with child abuse, and then it moved into working though health issues, issues with how religion was fed to me, some responses to political issues. My new series is about rebirth. After not having an answer to why I was sick for the last 10 years, to finally have an answer, changed my art and me.

Where do you come up with a lot of the women's faces in your paintings? 

For the last many years, I have been my own subject, but recently I have been painting these unknown women. Maybe my alter egos? I am still quite unsure.

Are they semi-based on people you know or have met or simply people grown in your imagination?

They are imagined. The only exception is if I use myself as a reference or if I am working on a person from history, say a tribute to Frida Kahlo or Joan of Arc then they are still imagined but I am harnessing their human form in my own interpretation.

How would you describe your art?

I would describe is a visual narrative of my life’s journey, with a juxtaposition of light and dark. They are the mixture of the things that are hidden in the blinding sun, and in darkness of a shadow. They are a continual story.

There is a subtle dark and very feminine aesthetic to your work but there also seems to be a much more softer brighter side to your work. How do you find a happy medium when working on a piece and deciding where you won't it to go versus where it could take you?

I shoot from the hip when I work. I just do what feels right. Often times there seems to be a gentle balance of light and darkness. A person once said to me at a lecture this last month “You make darkness beautiful”. Overall, I think it comes from what we are as humans. We are not intrinsically good, we have a dark and light side and it’s how we respond to both that helps us be human and empathetic. If we are able to express the darkness, lets say by creating art or writing music about it then we are taking away the fear, we are owning the darkness. Just as much as we are able to express the light, the darkness needs a voice without judgment. Then we are forever balanced.

Who are some of your own favorite artists and why?

I love all artists, because they do what they love. I am most strongly attached to children’s art because they are not yet influenced by what is good and bad in art, they just do. Some artists I admire are: Ray Ceasar, Frida Kahlo, Kris Lewis, Marie-Denise Villers, Kris Kuksi, and so many more.

Is there a particular person or artist you would love to work with?

Right now as a curator I have had the ability to work with some amazing talent. There are always others I would want to work with as well. I am always open; there is not a creative mind that is not worth something in this world.

Would you say you are at that stage in your art career now where you can live almost solely off your art's earnings or is that something that's still a little ways off? 

This is my full time job and I supplement it with web and graphic work. Anyone who can just do the thing they love is living a dream come true.

What are your favorite colors and materials to work with?

I am a digital painter so my materials are quite different. I love to use my works in one of a kind jewelry, and love to draw with graphite. I am also a big fan of my Nikon camera. My favorite color at this moment seems to be teal. I have an unhealthy obsession with that, and preferably balanced with gold, orange, or burgundy.

When your working on a piece are there central themes you tend to re-visit or concepts you like to base your projects on?

There never seems to be a theme unless I am working on a theme based group exhibition piece. Most of my work is visceral.

Is there any direction you would like to go with your art that you haven't conceptualized yet?

I have so many ideas, I can’t get them all down. It’s like inspiration is everywhere…. There is no one direction I want to go in. I just want to go where my art takes me and sometime I am not sure until I finish a piece or a series does it all fall together.

What can we expect from Aunia Kahn in the future?

Lots of new work, projects, a larger series of lectures, more publications and just a lot more fun!